Ever since Dennis Fitzpatrick became the founding CEO of the Blackfeet Nation-owned Siyeh Corporation, the Tribe has been on a rip-roaring economic streak.
“For years, the Blackfeet Tribe attempted to create sustainable Tribal enterprises that could produce revenue for the Tribe and meet the needs of its citizens for jobs and services. But many of these early efforts did not succeed,” says Fitzpatrick.
Then in 1999, the Blackfeet Native established the federally chartered, Tribally owned Siyeh Corporation, named after a respected Blackfeet warrior renowned for his “fearless leadership and independent spirit.” Today, the company — located on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana — is soaring economically with eight successful business enterprises, including a telecommunication company, cultural center, water and sewer utility, casinos, grocery store, hotel and fuel center.
“Operating profitably for 20 years is an achievement for any business, but even more significant for a Tribal enterprise in rural Montana,” says Fitzpatrick, proudly adding that Siyeh Corporation will pay its more than 250 employees $7 million in wages this year.
Fitzpatrick credits part of the company’s success to a unique internal operating system. “A well-developed operating system will establish guiding expectations and provide best practices in communication, fiscal management, performance, customer relations and any other discipline important to the business,” Fitzpatrick explains.
The Blackfeet CEO seems to have hit upon a formula that is working. Under his leadership, the Siyeh Corporation has been recognized by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development for “creating a sustainable economic development model supporting the self-governance of the Tribe.”
For Fitzpatrick, the secret to his success is the ability to simply listen. “I believe that my job is to be a skilled listener and analyze all the information I can before I make a decision.”
Dennis Fitzpatrick, Siyeh Corporation CEO, was named a Top 30 CEO in Indian Country by Native Business Magazine. His profile originally appeared in our 2019 Leadership issue.